Posted by Robert Half on 13 November 2014
Donning a suit isn’t always necessary at a job interview. But knowing what works for you will help you create a killer first impression.
First impression counts
People form an impression within the first 30 seconds of the first meeting – and it’s very hard to change any negative impressions later. Research tells us that in these vital seconds, only 7% of the response is based on what you say, 38% is formed by what you do (how you shake hands, your body language etc.) and that 55% of the impression you make is based on how you look and how individuals respond to your visual image.
A confident and business-like appearance is a must. This does not mean following the latest style in cutting-edge fashion, or conforming to a professional “uniform” that prevents you from displaying your unique personality and flair. Rather, the objective is to understand what suits you and why, so you can make a commitment to review your professional image regularly, and keep yourself looking as good as you possibly can be.
Top to toe
Your professional image should address the following features:
- A well-cut, easy-maintenance hairstyle. Be sure to appear neat and well-groomed without obvious use of gel or spray. If you have long hair, ‘open up’ your face with a style where the hair is lifted away from the face, this is especially important for men.
- The right clothes for your shape. Awareness of the right clothing for your body shape (this is about proportion and not weight) makes a big difference between clothes that fit and hang well, versus those that feel like a restricting, uncomfortable straitjacket. Similarly, understanding how to use colours effectively is critical in the selection of clothes for your professional role. For example, some people look overpowered by black, but confident and businesslike in charcoal grey. It is important to remember that ties should not be too garish or comedic in nature. A bad choice in clothing is a call for attention and you want interviewers to be drawn to what you are saying, and not what you are wearing. Bearing all this in mind, try to go for a discreet and classic look while retaining a measure of individuality.
- Fewer accessories. As a general rule, select the jewellery and accessories to accompany an outfit and then take at least one item away. Men should be equally aware, a large signet ring or bracelet has been known to distract prospective employers! For the ladies, try to use a briefcase that doubles as a handbag – carrying two things to an interview are an unnecessary encumbrance.
- Update your glasses if necessary. Choose a frame that is suitable for your face shape and not because it’s in vogue. Even pens can speak for your style – a senior professional can make a point with a pen, provided it is not a chewed disposable ballpoint.
- Make-up. People should only notice when you are not wearing it – an element of professional “finish” noticeable only by its absence. Take professional advice if you are unfamiliar with techniques. Research has shown that women who wear make-up earn more and get promoted faster than those who don’t.
A final note. Don’t forget the all important finishing touch – remember to polish your shoes or keep your toenails neat and trimmed if you’re wearing open-toe heels for women! You will be surprised how many prospective employers WILL notice your shoes even if you don’t.
If you are in doubt, remember that there are plenty of professional image consultants around to show you how to create a coordinated wardrobe that suit your physical characteristics, career ambitions and budget.